The revolt against the Qaddafi regime in Libya and other Mideast protest movements have raised the question of whether other regions will follow. If British Foreign Secretary William Hague is correct, the movement will soon spread to sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to Qaddafi, the continent is home to odious regimes including that of Robert Mugabe who has ruled Zimbabwe since 1980. Speaking to African businessmen, Hague issued the following warning to the remaining dictators:
“Governments that block the aspirations of their people, that steal or are corrupt, that oppress and torture or that deny freedom of expression and human rights should bear in mind that they will find it increasingly hard to escape the judgement of their own people, or where warranted, the reach of international law.”
Hague chose to single out Zimbabwe's Mugabe and the Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo. As for Zimbabwe, Hague noted that Zimbabwean security forces “continue to act with impunity, ramping up intimidation in order to instill fear in its opponents and to prevent the people of Zimbabwe from expressing their democratic voice.”
Mugabe has used Britain, the former colonial power in what was once southern Rhodesia, and the West in general as a scapegoat for his country's ills. When colonialism ended, Zimbabwe had the highest standard of living in Africa. Today, except for what Mugabe and his cronies have stolen for themselves, it is a poor country suffering from galloping inflation and food shortages in what used to be Africa's breadbasket.
In Mugabe's Zimbabwe, even watching videos of the recent Middle East events has been declared treasonous and officially carries the death penalty. 45 persons are facing treason charges for plotting an Egyptian style revolution. Mugabe has offered Colonel Qaddafi asylum in Zimbabwe. He lambasted African leaders for supporting the UN resolution and thereby assisting the West, whom he terms the "bloody vampires of the past."
The fragile coalition set up between Mugabe's ZANU party and the rival Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) is in tatters following the ruling that the Speaker of Parliament, an MDC choice and the first non ZANU speaker in the country's history, was not legally elected. Until a new speaker is elected, parliament is suspended.
In the 2008 elections, the opposition won the vote for parliament and would have gone on to win the presidential election had Mugabe and his police not intervened. They did so by conducting a campaign of systematic terror and vote fraud against the opposition. African countries led by South Africa patched up an agreement between the 2 parties in the hope of staving off bloodshed.
Now new elections loom and again the police are active in intimidating the opposition and preventing election rallies on spurious technicalities. The opposition has appealed to African countries and the United Nations to prevent Zimbabwe from deteriorating into a police state.
China surprised many by abstaining on the UN Security Council resolution that permitted the establishment of a no-fly zone in Libya. It has remained true to form in Zimbabwe. It will not pass judgment on a dictatorial regime, however repulsive, provided it enjoys access to the country's mineral resources.
Aside from humanitarian food relief, Western countries will not grant aid to Zimbabwe, but China has stepped in to fill the breach with a $700 million loan. China has invested in the diamond and chrome mines as well as in platinum concessions in the country. There is a joint uranium venture (Iran is also involved with uranium there). In return, China has asked Zimbabwe to exempt Chinese businesses from Mugabe's plans to increase ownership by black Zimbabweans, by which it is understood that he means his cohorts.